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Little Old Men… & Nursing in Public (Back by “PUBLIC” Demand)

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!
This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about nursing in public. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


My first baby was born in sunny Florida during a particularly hot stretch in May 1979.  Although I was an OB nurse, I knew very little about breastfeeding other than what my older co-workers had taught me—which was not all that correct or very helpful information. Luckily, I had a great friend who was nursing her 3 month old at the time my son was born. She really showed me the ropes. It just so happened that she was the one who took me home from the hospital. We had to stop at the store for a few items so we went in to a “Publix” supermarket with both babies in our arms.  My newborn son began fussing to nurse soon after we hit the air conditioning.

I said.. “I’m going to have to go back out to the car and nurse him.”

My friend says “Oh..You’ll do no such thing.. You’ll die in that heat.. Just hook him up and keep shopping so we can get finished and out of here!”

Me- “Nurse him in here?”

Friend- “Well if he’s hungry.. yeah!.. (after looking at my face) Oh stop worrying about it..go over to a deserted aisle, get him hooked on and put your receiving blanket up near his face… nobody will know!”

Me- timidly…above the louder howls.. “Alright, be right back..”

I found the most private place I could. I started cursing that complicated “wonderful nursing bra” I just had to have. (Remember..this is 30 years ago… this bra is now an antique!) My skills handling newborns allowed me some grace as I attempted to multitask by stooping down, prop my loudly crying baby on my partial lap, use 2 hands to fiddle with the damn nursing bra, then get him back up near my finally free boob and latched on.

Ahhhh~ quiet, happy, drinking baby!

Still stooped down, I peered slowly behind me — expecting that a large crowd must have assembled. Somewhat surprisingly, everybody was just going about their business and I happily realized that noone was looking at me! I stood up, made sure I wasn’t showing anything, and walked off with my happily nursing baby to find my friend.

It’s amazing how many people want to see a quiet baby as opposed to a screaming infant!

A sweet little old man stopped me first and asked me how old my baby was….”3 days”, I replied. He peeked in for a closer look and he actually didn’t get it right away.. “I can’t really see his face.”.. I said “Well- he’s feeding right now.”.. He just said..”OOPS….sorry about that! Well he’s a cute one!” then walked off.

The next person who stopped me was again.. a sweet little old man. He was very smiley and jolly. He asked all about the baby but didn’t lean over to look like the other man. I quickly said he’s nursing now and then answered all the small talk.  He never seemed uncomfortable about it at all! That probably gave me a lot more confidence. We parted ways and I finally found my friend. She gave me an approving thumbs up, asked me to hold a basket with my other hand and said we were almost done.

Another little old man stopped us by the register to ask about both babies. We gave him all the small talk answers and let him know my son was nursing. This guy was a real sweetie, commenting on how lucky kids were that moms were starting to “nurse their young” again and ‘good for you.”  He never tried to look in at my son. He didn’t seem embarrassed by the process at all. He was the coolest guy!

I left the Publix Supermarket on my way home to begin my life as a mommy…. with a little public education bonus.  Encountering those sweet little old men while feeding my baby and receiving their positive type feedback was the gentle support I needed. I went on to feel empowered to nurse in public for all three of my babies…  Those little old men were just so supportive! ~ When my baby was hungry, he needed to feed and it really didn’t matter where I was at the time.  Thank goodness for my friend’s wisdom and support to go for it!

I became a lactation professional while nursing my last baby. It was then, only after I really became more aware of issues surrounding nursing in public that I actually took any kind of public action to empower other moms.  I’ve done lots of different little things as the years have gone by. I want to mention one fun way that I thought I could help gently re-educate some of the “new” sweet little old men of this day and age.  Our local paper has a lot of little retired guys commenting back and forth on various local articles. I’m guessing their age and status by all the things they say. I took this opportunity to possibly educate some of these forum readers about breastfeeding rights in public.  Every once in a while, on the forum, I put out a little snippet on nursing in public… and sit back and watch what they have to say in reply! It’s quite fun!

Here’s an example I wrote on a long forum discussion a couple years ago on a breastfeeding article:

On another note, regarding a reader reaction in the forum, a skimpy bikini or the bathing-suit issue of a favorite sports magazine show more skin in a provocative, sexy way than any mom breast-feeding. Even the movie stars in their gowns with plunging necklines are showing almost the entire breast! Somehow, that is OK. It is sad that the public opinion of a baby breast-feeding (the most natural way for him to eat) is something that should be done in private … yet young girls are encouraged by media to bare more and more skin. Of course being discreet while feeding is important, but I can assure you, most girls in a tiny bikini are thinking more about “tacky exhibitionist behavior” than a mother breast-feeding her baby. August 1-7 is always World Breast Feeding Week. The theme this year is “Welcome Baby Softly,” focusing on the importance of the first hour or two after birth. Learn more about it. I would love to see the paper do an article on that.

This one provoked a few responses in both directions and sometimes there were a few people who actually thought out loud that …gosh maybe I was right… never thought about it that way…etc..

Here’s an example I wrote on a recent article about the appropriate % amount for tipping :

I have never left an establishment without tipping– however, I also tip according to service up to 20%. If there are unkind reactions to small children in a FAMILY establishment, they will be getting a bare minimal tip for sure!! I do my best to keep my children behaved with table manners AND respect other patrons… but fact remains, they are children! I cannot possibly be prepared for every behavior or an accidental spill. In addition, my breastfeeding baby may be hungry.. By PA law, I have the right to nurse my baby in a public place wherever he and I are allowed to be. I am discreet.. I am protected by law… I don’t need an unkind comment from servers. They do not get a 15-20% tip if nasty, unkind or disrespectful comments have been made about my children or my breastfeeding baby!

This provoked a foray of comments ranging from ‘good for you’ to ‘you should be in the back booth…controlling kids etc..’  Sometimes the opportunities to educate others come at unexpected times but produce amazing results!

On a few occasions, other readers were supporting my comments and

helping to educate those sweet little old guys with me!

😉


Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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My Breast Pump and I didn’t get Along 

Can I Pump my MILK?  Should I? …

or  Not.  Even.  Bother.


My Own Struggles with Pumping and Working

and doing what worked for me

Welcome to September’s Carnival of Breastfeeding!!!

I have this post AND an additional post All about Pumping including choosing a pump and how to Practice Pumping before going back. After you read this, check out the other posts on this month’s theme of “Breastfeeding and Work” linked at the bottom of this post. All links will be added as I get them hopefully by the end of the day Monday, so be sure to check back for the full list!

breast pump

A little history

As far back as I can remember, the only breast pump we had around in nursing school or when I first started working on the maternity unit was this thing that looked like a bicycle horn. This picture above is for an old “Breast Reliever”. It is glass with a rubber bulb to squeeze for suction. This particular antique is from the earlier half of the 20th century. We actually had a similar type glass model in Nursing school and on my 1st OB unit in 1974.   Historical use of breast pumps shows the first patent was issued in the 1800’s and a patent for a mechanical version was issued in the 1920’s. Information was scarce then. Not too many nurses knew much about it.  Mother’s were instructed to use it if they got engorged. I can’t believe it would have been very helpful.

pump70sold horn pump

We got a newer plastic version of this pump in the 70’s but still didn’t have any clear instructions for use. I was never taught by instructors or fellow nurses, so all I could do for the patients in my care was review the instructions on the box with them! I don’t even remember what that said. Those old horn pumps were trouble. They were traumatizing to the breast and the rubber bulb was just a trap for bacteria.

I remember one mother in particular in 1975 had been readmitted with bleeding, gone to the OR for retained placental fragments at 2 weeks postpartum. She was breastfeeding and having trouble. I took care of her postop. She said “I can’t believe how much milk I have, what can I do?”  I promptly went for the only pump we had and went over the directions with her. She was saying it hurt but felt better at the same time because it did help to drain some of the milk.  I didn’t much know then about how the retained placenta can delay hormonal shifts and your milk coming in. She and I both thought at the time it was because of being separated from her baby!

ANYWAY

By the time I had my first baby in 1979, (YES- 30 years ago) I had become more familiar with pumps because I had a friend pumping and now I was very personally interested. I wanted to pump just like her! I want to store milk for my baby when I went back to work. Her baby was 3 months old and she had gone back to work. She pumped in front of me once to show me how easy it was. She used a cylinder style hand pump similar to this picture. She got 8 ounces of milk in about 10 min!

70s pumpIt had one chamber inside the other. To pump, you would place the cone over your breast and pull the outer chamber up and down. This was a very popular style pump at the time. Easy right? I promptly went and bought one! I can do this!

My son was born weighing 6 lbs 9 1/2 oz. Breastfeeding got off to a great start, there were no problems at all. I was very confident about that and had great support from my best friend. My son weighed 7lbs 2oz at 2 weeks and nearly 10 lbs by 6 weeks.

I had plenty of milk!

None of which hit the bottom of the chamber when I first tried to pump….  no matter what I did! I knew nothing about the technique of pumping. I worked and worked at it.  I could playfully squirt milk across the room. I had squirting contests with my sister. We cracked up laughing! I could not get any milk with the pump.

I had never practiced. I thought that once I was away from my baby, I would just pump… thought the milk would just come out like my friend. I went to work, let myself get a full feeling and tried. Nothing.  I woke him up when I got home and made him eat!  The next day… same thing.. Nothing.  Luckily I only worked 2 days a week so I nursed him all the rest of the time. I kept trying- week after week– I thought I just had to get used to it. I am sure I was very stressed each time, never using any of the tricks I teach moms today.  I still never thought to practice when I was home with the baby. The most I EVER got after 45 min of pumping was one ounce.  I gave up and only fed formula while at work. My body adjusted and I was happy doing what I was doing.

I wrote a guest post over at Breastfeeding Moms Unite on pumping including choosing a pump for you and practicing to pump. All moms are so different and many have no trouble at all expressing their milk. Others have  trouble releasing their milk to this plastic “thing” on them that doesn’t feel like their baby. It’s just not the same! In that post I say:

I have found it’s important for mothers to understand that pumping is a substitute for the real thing and that it takes practice for lots of moms. I always say to expect hardly anything the first time you try then whatever milk you may get is wonderful! One very important point to realize is that whatever you see come out with a pump or hand expression is NOT a reflection of how much a baby gets in a feeding when he is well latched and effectively feeding.  What you see come out with the pump is what your body released at that moment in time. Even women with a great supply and healthy growing babies can have trouble learning to pump. The baby is the master … you are merely trying to imitate him! The type of pump used and when you pump in relation to the age of the baby as well as the time of day, frequency etc. can have a big impact on your results.

My second baby was born in 1985 . Another 6 pounder at birth with rapid weight gain, a great milk supply for me.  I had some improved pumping results with him partly because of better pumps and mostly by sheer determination to help him heal through major surgery at  3 months. The Children’s Hospital had a hospital grade electric pump, a pumping room and directions on what to do. Because I was able to provide milk for him in the hospital, I had renewed faith in myself that I could pump once I went back to work.

pump 80s

There were different pumps, better pumps available. I tried my old pump and some piston style pump like above. I don’t remember the name of that either. I tried many…still waiting to pump again till I had eventually gone back to work. There were some battery/ AC adapter electric ones to buy. I had one, but don’t even remember the name.  I had to push a button to make the suction go on and off –>  otherwise there was constant suction on your breast and no control on the degree or amont of suction. Some people told me to keep the suction on till it started to flow then push that button on/off.

Well it didn’t flow, it hurt. I never released any substantial milk for any of these pumps. I wasn’t able to keep it up. I ended up doing the same as I had with my first son. I made a routine which worked for me of nursing all the time at home and formula when I was at work. We didn’t have any hospital grade mechanical pump until the 1990’s at my hospital, long after my third baby and after I became a Lactation Professional.

I had dealt with so many other issues after my third baby that pumping was never much of a thought in my head. I simply fell back into the routine that had worked for me with the first two babies. She is the baby that nursed the longest even after I went back to work!

Looking back, I think if I had access to the information I know now, and the availability of today’s high quality pumps…I might have, possibly would have had better success pumping. The most important point is that I still felt successful  and was happy with my breastfeeding relationship for all my children!

After all, I could squirt my milk the farthest!!

😉

More Carnival Posts: